April 6, 2023

why is my refund smaller this year

The average tax refund so far in 2023 has been just over $1,960, which is about 11% lower than last year. Tax professionals are warning taxpayers of potential “tax refund shock” and urge them to prepare for smaller tax refunds in 2023. Here’s a breakdown of what caused the decrease in the average tax refund amount. 

Tax Credits Are Back to Pre-Pandemic Level 

According to IRS data, American taxpayers saw an increase in their tax refunds in 2021, from an average of $2,549 to an average of $2,815. 2022 saw an even larger increase with an average tax refund of $3,252. These amounts can be credited to the COVID-era tax credits related to children, dependents, charitable deductions, and more. However, the IRS issued a statement urging taxpayers to prepare for lower refunds in 2023 due to the end of stimulus payments and changes to charitable contribution deductions. 

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) provided up to $3,600 per qualifying child in 2021 for working parents with certain qualifications. In 2022, the credit was reduced to $2,000 per qualifying child but still helped American families. However, the payments only went to families that earned enough income to owe taxes, so only the poorest U.S. households benefitted from the credit. This could be devastating to families relying on the credit, especially after data showed the CTC lifted nearly 3 million children out of poverty in 2021 at its peak level. 

In addition, the Child and Dependent Care Expenses Tax Credit (CDCTC) returned to a maximum of $2,100 in 2022, a huge decrease from 2021 levels of $8,000. This credit was especially helpful to parents and guardians who had daycare, babysitting, or other care provider expenses. 

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) dropped from 2021 levels of $1,500 to just $560, but up to $6,935. Certain charitable donations are also no longer deductible up to $600 as it was in previous years. 

The United States saw a massive trend of layoffs in 2022. However, severance payments were taxable this year, unlike during the pandemic-era layoffs. Finally, the end to COVID-19 stimulus payments also meant no way to claim credits for stimulus payments. 

The issue here is that the end of these helpful tax breaks comes during a time of the highest inflation the U.S. has seen in four decades, making it difficult for taxpayers to rely on their tax refunds for financial relief as they normally do. Nearly one third of Americans rely on their tax refunds to make ends meet. 

How Can I Increase My Tax Refund Next Year? 

While some people prefer to keep more of their paychecks during the year, others prefer to have a greater tax refund once a year. One way to do this is to have more taxes withheld from your paycheck. You can submit a new W-4 to your employer at any time during the year. It’s important to note that your W-4 should be reviewed and resubmitted when you have a personal or financial change in life. Other than this adjustment, you can take advantage of traditional IRA contribution deductions or max out your Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions. With just a short amount of time before the April 18th tax filing deadline, you’ll want to ensure that you file a complete and accurate return as soon as possible. If you need tax help, Optima is here to assist. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our knowledgeable tax professionals today.